As the celebration of Southern W. Va. Poverty Awareness Week continues, a poverty simulation at the Chief Logan Conference Center on Wed., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. taught the nursing class from Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College about adverse lifestyles. Participants in the simulation experienced “one month” of poverty in a real-time simulation as they role-played the lives of low-income families.
This free program is designed to increase poverty awareness and address possible solutions to the problems faced by people trying to survive financially.
Participants were split into groups for the day, and those group members became their new family. Scenarios were given to participants who were required to decide how to seek services and support, obtain financial assistance and determine how to spend what little money the family has in order to survive.
Some are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients, some are disabled, and some are senior citizens on Social Security. Participants have the stressful tasks of providing basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during four 15-minute “weeks.” They will interact with human services agencies, grocers, bill collectors, job interviews, police officers and others during the exercise.
One participant, Austin Stepp, talked about his experience:
“I was a 14-year-old female for the day. My mother was a single mom… My dad died and my mom had exactly $10 to her name. She had to go out and get a job to pay $800 worth of bills and feed both of us. It was pretty intense.”
Although play money is used, it is not a game. It is a simulation that enables participants to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change within their local communities.
As Austin recounted his story, as well as those of his classmates, he sympathized and showed his appreciation for the program.
“It’s insane what some people have to go through. Ya know, this was a requirement for class, but so far I’m happy that I got to come.”
After the simulation, participants were fed lunch and reconveined for lecture/discussion. Leading this portion of the experience was Barb Miller, Executive Director of Monticello Community Action Center in Virginia.
“I remember in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson started the War on Poverty,” said Miller. “When I went away to college, my dad wanted me to be a teacher… When he dropped my off, I walked over to the admissions office and told them ‘This says education. I think I want to change it to sociology.’ I really had the bug to help people.”
The simulation is designed to raise awareness of the issues of people living in poverty and most importantly, it moves participants to action to make a difference.
The program was been made available by W.Va. Pride Community Services of Logan County.